The Wilderness Fairies: Daisy’s New Wings by Jodie Wells-Slowgrove, illustrated by Kerry Millard (Puffin Books) PB RRP $9.99 ISBN 9780143307471
Reviewed by Dianne Bates
In Daisy’s Quest, the first exciting, event-filled book in this series of chapter books for readers 7 to 9 years, Daisy gained her feathery new wings. Daisy finally feels like a true fairy but she will need all the strength, bravery, resourcefulness and persistence she showed in that quest in order to learn how to fly. First, though, Daisy needs bigger dresses in order to accommodate her wings, so Mum’s sister, Aunt Acacia, a seamstress, gets to work. First she takes her niece into the forest to point out potential dangers for a flying fairy – webs, thorny bushes, snakes and currawongs.
Then Daisy – with the help of her best friend, the beetle Vu, needs to build up her shoulder muscles, which requires lots of exercise practice.
Like other young children learning a new skill, Daisy needs to learn patience and how to deal with disappointment and frustration. Her first attempt to fly, encouraged by her fairy friend Pea, results in a fall from a tree branch. Luckily, Dad, who is a healer, is able to help Daisy to recover. Kerry Millard, the illustrator, who faithfully captures the spirit of the Wilderness Fairy’s stories, has beautifully captured, in simple lines and wash, many tender moments in the books, including one of a tearful Daisy being consoled – and encouraged – by her aunt after this first failure.
Learning ways of moving – from hovering to gentle fluttering to powerful flapping – Daisy gains concentration and focus. Her first solo flight is wild and unpredictable but ultimately successful. The next book in this wonderful series will surely be about Daisy’s attempt to find her ‘Calling’.
In this – and the previous book – the author Jodie Wells-Slowgrove – has created a whole new world which is fantastical and yet utterly believable. She has captured the atmosphere of forests which are so familiar to Australians. Even within Daisy’s life her close-knitted family seems real as they gather together to dine on lilli pilli cake, roasted seeds, native cherries and wattle seed damper.
The books give readers insight into the lives of native animals and their habitat. At the end of this book there are notes purportedly from Daisy about how to make bush music, about Sydney Green Wattle and Nelli, a ladybird which are featured in the story.
This series is sure to find a strong following with children who appreciate page-turning adventures and characters which one can care about.